Parents today can turn to kids’ movies from the 1970s and 1980s for many wonderful teachable moments that still resonate today. For kids who struggle with life lessons, children’s movies often have the answers. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we are treated to a humorous but familiar look at the characteristics of terribly behaved children who are rude, greedy, and selfish; in the end, the rewards go to the honest, kind, and patient child.
Movies of the 70s and 80s tended to have less intense special effects, more happy endings, and humor that is more slapstick than subtle. Whether the old-timey G and PG movies we love are about our favorite superhero, body-swapping mixup, human-animal connection, underdog athlete, book-loving child, imagination fantasy, or animated story of love and loss, 70s and 80s kids’ movies taught kids valuable life lessons about the importance of honesty, integrity, and kindness to ourselves and others.
Do you remember these 10 70s kids’ movies?
Going to the movies with kids in the 1970s was certainly a lot cheaper than it is today. The decade started off with average movie ticket prices at just $1.55 in 1970, climbing to an average of $2.52 by 1979. At the time, more and more local movie theatres were popping up to the delight of parents looking for entertainment that the whole family could enjoy.
During the 1970s, Hollywood was busily churning out some of the greatest movies of all time like The Godfather, Jaws, The Exorcist, Love Story, American Graffiti, and Saturday Night Fever. But studio executives were also discovering major box office success with movies for children and families, including some blockbusters. Here’s our top 10 list of the best children’s movies from the 1970s you can watch at home right now
Do you remember any of these classics? Let us know on Twitter.
1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Rated G
“Good day, Sir!” Originally a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by the legendary Roald Dahl, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a fantastical story about a man named Willy Wonka (brilliantly played by Gene Wilder), owner of the famous Wonka Chocolate Factory, who sponsors a contest for children.
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is the greatest movie performance of all time. pic.twitter.com/XJs7UBKNPB
— Jeff D Oscars SZN (@JeffDLowe) April 17, 2021
There are five Golden Tickets hidden in his chocolate bars, and whoever finds them will get to spend a special day touring the Wonka Chocolate Factory and receive a lifetime supply of chocolate. Mr. Wonka tempts each child as a test of their character, and it’s poor, humble Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) who wins the day. This movie has spawned a popular remake, real-life versions of the candies prominently featured like the Everlasting Gobstopper, and even a band named Veruca Salt (“I want it NOW!”) named for the brattiest, but most memorable, of the child characters played by Julie Dawn Cole. Plus, Nicki Minaj referenced Willy Wonka in her verse on the song “Monster.”
YEAH IM IN THAT TONKA COLOR OF WILLY WONKA pic.twitter.com/2LgvLoI62e
— JT (@theonly1jt) April 12, 2021
Where to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Buy or rent Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Amazon
2. Superman (1978), Rated PG
Christopher Reeves is the original Superman and played the superhero part to perfection. The movie is based on the DC Comics character of the same name about a man of steel fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way.” Originally from the planet Krypton, Clark Kent is masquerading as a regular person but uses his special powers in a kind, compassionate manner with a sense of duty to right the wrongs in the world. The movie stars Marlon Brando as his father Jol-El, Gene Hackman as archnemesis Lex Luthor, and Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.
Where to watch Superman: Buy or rent Superman on Amazon
3. Rocky (1976), Rated PG
Set in the city of Philadelphia, Rocky is the story of a poor, Italian-American fighter who earns a shot at becoming the heavyweight champion of the world. Written by Sylvester Stallone who also stars as Rocky the 70s movie tells the story of a fighter’s coming of age in the boxing world, including unconventional workouts with his trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith), his “cornerman” and friend Paulie (Burt Young), and falling in love with Adrian (Talia Shire). A true underdog story right to the end, Rocky faces off against the reigning champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) for one of the most unexpected movie endings of all time.
The original Rocky was such a massive success, it launched a hugely successful franchise series with eight sequels, in total earning more than $1.5 billion at the box office. In November of 2020, Rocky celebrated its 40th anniversary with 40 years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic, a documentary-style look back at the making of the film narrated by Sylvester Stallone.
Fun fact: turtles Cuff and Link are real-life pets of Sylvester Stallone and are still alive today, despite being featured in the original 1976 movie!
Where to watch Rocky: Buy or rent Rocky on Amazon
4. The Black Stallion (1979), Rated G
Based on the 1941 classic children’s novel of the same name, this movie starring Teri Garr and Mickey Rooney explores wild freedom and willfulness through a beautiful story about a boy and a horse. The boy and “The Black” rescue each other throughout this movie, which lurches from one heartwarming moment to another. For parents keen on a happy ending and who would prefer a spoiler alert over a traumatized child, there’s no Old Yeller ending here.
Where to watch The Black Stallion: Buy or rent The Black Stallion on Amazon
5. The Muppet Movie (1979), Rated G
This first film featuring the Muppets is produced by Jim Henson, the original creator of the Muppets characters. It features cameo appearances by Dom DeLuise, James Coburn, Steve Martin, and Mel Brooks. The film tells the origin story of how the characters met on their way to Hollywood. We won’t keep you guessing: it was love at first sight for Miss Piggy and Kermit. In this 1979 original Muppets movie, we see the wit and antics that came to define the later movies and Muppets franchise. The Muppet Show’s February 2021 arrival to Disney+ has re-ignited Muppet mania. The Muppets movies and characters have marked our culture so indelibly that NPR recently ran a contest for listeners to vote on “Best Muppet.” Kermit won.
Where to watch The Muppet Movie: Watch The Muppet Movie on Disney+
6. The Shaggy D.A. (1976), Rated G
Produced by Walt Disney Productions, this comedy is inspired by a 1923 novel The Hound of Florence and is a sequel to The Shaggy Dog (1959). This 70s kids’ movie stars Suzanne Pleshette, Tim Conway, Dean Jones, and Dick Van Patten. This movie is fun for the whole family as it tells a story of a good guy versus a bad guy using a classic Disney gimmick of a supernatural force. The Shaggy D.A. is one of the early themes of swapping bodies or souls with another. Who can resist the spell of an Old English sheepdog?
Where to watch The Shaggy D.A: Watch The Shaggy D.A. on Disney+
7. Charlotte’s Web (1973), Rated G
Based on the 1952 book of the same name by E.B. White, this animated musical drama features the voice of Debbie Reynolds as Charlotte. The movie premiered at Radio City Music Hall and is produced by Hanna-Barbera, better known for TV cartoons like The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo. In Charlotte’s Web, farmer Homer’s miraculous pig gets to “live to a ripe old age,” thanks to the friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte the spider. Charlotte spins her web full of words like “radiant,” and the whole barn shimmers with the activity of life. Love knows no bounds in this movie. It’s “TERRIFIC! TERRIFIC! TERRIFIC!” (in the words of the goose). In the portrayal of a profound friendship, this movie reminds parents and kids that everyone is unique and irreplaceable. Even when Charlotte’s 514 children are hatched, and 511 of them leave the farm, the three that remain are named by Wilbur. As much as he loves the charming Joy, Nellie, and Aranea, Wilbur is still bereft. No one will ever replace Charlotte. Sniff.
Where to watch Charlotte’s Web: Watch Charlotte’s Web on Amazon Prime Video
8. Freaky Friday (1976), Rated G
Did you know Freaky Friday is considered one of the earliest body-switcheroo plotlines that set the stage for the seemingly endless run of 80s kids’ movies (and beyond) with a similar theme?
The concept was so popular, it inspired movies like 18 Again!; All of Me; Like Father, Like Son; Vice Versa; and, of course, the biggest blockbuster of them all — Big.
In Freaky Friday, we are treated to Jodi Foster as 13-year-old Annabelle Andrews, the rough-and-tumble daughter of Mom Ellen (Barbara Harris). After a particularly heated argument, the two wish they could trade places, and magically — because it’s Friday the 13th — they do! Hilarity ensues, lessons are learned, and mutual respect begins.
Where to watch Freaky Friday: Watch Freaky Friday on Disney+
9. Benji (1974), Rated G
Movies featuring animals as lead or prominent characters enjoyed widespread popularity in the 1970s and Benji was no exception. This was, hands-down, my favorite movie as a child. I loved it so much that I had my kids watch it, who loved it so much they voted to name our new puppy Benji.
Written and directed by Joe Camp, the star of this movie is Benji, a stray, mixed-breed dog who lives in an abandoned house and visits neighbors and townspeople each day for food, love, and companionship. Over time, the dog bonds with Paul and Cindy, a brother and sister whose father dislikes dogs but whose housekeeper, Mary, loves Benji, too. The story has mystery (a double kidnapping!), suspense (a ransom!) and plenty of loyal doggie love between Benji and his humans and Benji and his doggie girlfriend, Tiffany. Made on a small budget of $500,000, the movie was a huge success, grossing $45 million at the box office, and went on to become a franchise, with six total Benji movies made in all. Netflix released a Benji remake in 2018, but the original has an old-school charm that is absolutely worth the watch.
Throwback Thursday! Benji with writer/director/producer, Joe Camp. How many of Joe’s movies have you seen? pic.twitter.com/vo7ZwjlWSu
— Benji (@GenuineBenji) August 11, 2016
Where to watch Benji: Buy or rent Benji on Amazon
10. Star Wars (1977), Rated PG
Created by George Lucas, Star Wars is one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, expanding to other forms of media and entertainment, with a total value estimated at more than $70 billion. Starring Harrison Ford as Hans Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and James Earl Jones as Darth Vader’s voice, the story centers heavily on themes of good and evil, and efforts to restore freedom and justice to the Galactic Empire.
Where to watch Star Wars: Watch Star Wars on Disney+
Do you remember these 10 80s kids’ movies?
Going to the movies with kids in the 1980s got easier, thanks to the major multiplexes that started popping up all over the country at the time. The 80s decade started off with average movie ticket prices costing just $2.69 in 1980, rising to an average of $3.99 by 1989.
One major difference between popular kids’ movies in the 70s vs. the 80s was the proliferation of technologically advanced animation. Movies geared toward kids experienced new opportunities to shine, combining cartoon concepts with full movie plotlines that could capture the imaginations of children and delight their parents all at once.
The classic-style children’s movies popular in the 70s also continued to entertain us, so there were plenty of outstanding G and PG movies to choose from in the 1980s.
1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), Rated PG
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and released by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, this live-action/animated movie was hailed as “groundbreaking,” in large part due to the animation wizardry. Critics and the audience loved the convincing universe of “toons” (cartoon characters) and people interacting naturally.
The film is set in 1947 Hollywood, with a dramatic “noir” effect, and the plot unfolds like a hard-boiled detective story with witty dialogue to match. Young kids will enjoy the energy of “Toontown” and the characters even if they don’t follow every plot twist. Bob Hoskins plays private investigator Eddie Valiant, who must exonerate Roger Rabbit, a toon accused of murdering a wealthy businessman. The scary elements in this movie are tempered by humor, antics, and a thrilling car chase sequence. All in all, this is a great family movie from the 80s.
Where to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit on Disney+
2. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, this movie is a true icon among 80s kids’ movies. In it, a scientist accidentally shrinks his own kids, as well as his neighbor’s kids, to a mere 3/4″ in size and then accidentally discards them in the garbage. The kids band together to escape and battle the dangers of their own backyard, including insects, obstacles, and other elements scary to a minuscule person. This movie lets the imagination run wild, and is an enduring love among kids who grew up in the 1980s who hung in movie theaters at the mall all afternoon.
wife: we have to soak in these early days with our baby she’ll never be this tiny again
me: but what about-
wife: honey i shrunk the kids isn’t real
— the pan-midwesterner (@panmidwest) February 28, 2021
Where to watch Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Watch Honey, I Shrunk the Kids on Disney+
3. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), Rated G
The familiar old voices of Burt Reynolds, Dom Delouise, and Vic Tayback as young men give life and personality to the main canine characters in this beloved animated story of loyal dog friends who show us what it means to be true friends. In it, the good and loyal dogs overcome and teach the ne’er-do-wells a thing or two about love, loyalty, and friendship.
— mya 🌻 (@carnelianmoth) April 17, 2021
Where to watch All Dogs Go to Heaven: Buy or rent All Dogs Go to Heaven on Amazon
4. The Land Before Time (1988), Rated G
Dino fans unite! This charming film produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas has become a family favorite whether your child is obsessed with dinosaurs or not. The film sparked 13 direct-to-video musical sequels, a TV series, video games, and other merchandising. In the original movie, a group of dinosaur friends raises a baby Tyrannosaurus named Chomper.
the name “land before time” goes so hard
— bean (@christapeterso) April 19, 2021
Through their many harrowing adventures in the Great Valley, the group of dinos learns lessons about life, friendship, and the meaning of sacrifice to protect loved ones. Don’t be deceived by the cute animated characters—Littlefoot and friends deliver big emotions.
Where to watch The Land Before Time: Buy or rent The Land Before Time on Amazon
5. The Little Mermaid (1989), Rated G
Disney’s The Little Mermaid was a smash hit in theatres in the late 80s and early 90s, raking in more than $233 million at the box office worldwide. The movie tells the story of 16-year-old Ariel who is preoccupied with the human world. Her father, King Triton, is the ruler of the kingdom of Atlantica, a fictitious part of the Atlantic Ocean near the coast of Norway. Ariel seeks advice and companionship from her friends Scuttle the seagull, Sebastian the crab, and her BFF Flounder.
Eventually, she saves the life of human Prince Eric and falls in love. Ariel is desperate to become a human and makes a deal with Ursula to transform her into one for three days so she can fall in love with Eric. Lots of drama follows, building up to a major clash between good and evil. This is one of the more classic Disney movies of all time, and definitely one to watch with the littles!
We can’t wait to watch the live-action remake of this classic 80s movie starring Halle Bailey, Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, and more Hollywood celebs. Sign up for email updates to find out when The Little Mermaid remake hits movie theaters.
Where to watch The Little Mermaid: Watch The Little Mermaid on Disney+
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Rated PG
Directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas, this movie stars Harrison Ford as fearless archaeologist Indiana Jones, a hero so loved he sparked the Indiana Jones franchise, which in total earned nearly $2 billion at the box office worldwide. This movie is considered one of the greatest films of all time, partly because it’s packed with riotous adventure at every turn. It also imagines a victory over Hitler with the swashbuckling hero’s quest to save the long-lost Ark of the Covenant from the clutches of the Nazis.
Where to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark: Buy or rent Raiders of the Lost Ark on Amazon
7. Ghostbusters (1984), Rated PG
Written by Dan Ackroyd, this other-worldly movie stars 80s icons Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis as three academics who launch a ghost-catching business, with Sigourney Weaver as their first client. In their quest to save New York City from total annihilation, the trio goes on the offensive to rid Manhattan of ghosts, poltergeists, and menacing spirits. This movie hit theatres before the PG-13 rating was available, and we suspect it might have qualified for the more advanced rating at the time had it been available due to some content that might frighten small children. Filled with an abundance of 80s-style special effects (which might look rather silly by today’s level of sophisticated effects), but nonetheless provide for a fun watch for the whole family.
From the set of GHOSTBUSTERS pic.twitter.com/02jSf5USnq
— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) April 13, 2021
Where to watch Ghostbusters: Buy or rent Ghostbusters on Amazon
8. E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Rated PG
Steven Spielberg directs this sci-fi children’s movie about the unconditional love between a boy and an extraterrestrial. Starring Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore (in her film debut), Robert MacNaughton, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, this movie touches the hearts of all of us with its insightful take on the purity of a child’s friendship, devotion, and the utter despair felt when having to separate from someone you love.
E.T. Phone home 👽 pic.twitter.com/g1Cjh43P2X
— Mark Dean Oliver (@MarkDeanOliver1) April 16, 2021
Where to watch E.T. the Extraterrestrial: Buy or rent E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial on Amazon
9. Back to the Future (1985), Rated PG
Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown make such a memorable movie duo. Together, they experiment with time travel in a way that sends Marty McFly back into the 1950s where he meets his parents and does his best not to upset the future, lest he risk his own extinction. The movie inspired two more Back to the Future movies within a five-year span. The original Back to the Future made more than $385 million at the box office worldwide. Check out more time travel movies to watch here.
My aesthetic is behind the scenes photos of Back to the Future pic.twitter.com/TSlwa9dDMd
— joey j (he/him) (@joeyrjordan) April 12, 2021
Where to watch Back to the Future: Buy or rent Back to the Future on Amazon
10. The Princess Bride (1987), Rated PG
This comedy is a fairytale story adventure directed by Rob Reiner and stars a huge lineup, including Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, Chris Sarandon, and Christopher Guest. The story features Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) who overcomes tremendous obstacles in her quest to live happily ever after — not with the awful Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) — but instead, with her devoted and loving farmhand Westley (Cary Elwes).
We are being the best parents by introducing our boys (eight and five) to The Princess Bride today.
Owen hilariously beat Fred Savage to the punch complaining about kissing by two seconds and both boys are now hooked completely.
— Ryan Thompson (@BardicKnowledge) April 11, 2021
Where to watch The Princess Bride: Watch The Princess Bride on Disney+
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